It appears the Broadband Data Improvement Act which just passed the House is a bit of a misnomer. You would think from the title that the purpose of the legislation is to improve broadband, but after reading the version that passed the House it looks like Congress and I have different definitions of “improvement”.
I thought “improving broadband” meant “making it better,” but it appears their definition of improvement means:
1) Gathering better metrics on where to improve broadband (i.e., rural areas currently w/out high-speed Internet access)
2) Offering up funds to help states put broadband in more places
3) Increasing public awareness of child safety issues online and
4) Adjusting online child pornography laws
None of which really has anything to do with making broadband itself better. #1 and #2 will help make broadband exist in certain places, not improve it. #3 and #4 really have nothing to do with broadband and are just Internet regulation stuffs.
When I think of legislation for “improving broadband” here’s what I would like to see:
a) Regulations that put broadband reliability on par with regular land-line phone service. This should include penalties for downtime similar to what we have for phone service, along with installation time requirements like what we have for phones. Currently this is handled ad hoc on a case-by-base basis. If your broadband provider goes down for 5 days (which has happened to me) it’s up to you, the customer, to get on the horn and complain and complain and complain until they refund your money. If it were the phone company they would be required by law to automatically credit you 5 free days of service.
b) Regulations that force providers to compensate customers when advertised bandwidth isn’t realized by customer. Currently this is also handled ad hoc on a case-by-case basis. We need laws on the books that say “if the advertised speed is 3Mbit but you actually get 1.5Mbit then you should only pay for 1.5Mbit.” In many cases its handled by the provider saying to the customer, “tough noogies.”
c) Grant programs for improving broadband where it already exists by making it faster and cheaper! In Japan and Europe you can get 10-100x the bandwidth of what we can get in the US, and in many cases for a lower cost. If legislators want to realize the second dot-com boom, we need to pump up the bandwidth so that a whole new category of bandwidth-intensive internet services can be made practical.